I am currently in Normandy, having a very pleasant time. I am not on tour, but still having a very pleasant time. The hotel I am in is great, it has a radio and I can pick up the BBC World Service, this is a definite plus. This morning I listened to the news and the ‘light’ article at the end concerned a website which has just released its poll results for worst commercials. The overall winner was Aflac. I don’t think we have Aflac in England but I do have an old friend who works for them. Apparently they have an irritating (to some) cartoon duck which has been joined recently by another animal character. I haven’t seen the commercial in question and I am not going to look it up in case it has an annoying jingle or catchphrase that gets stuck in my head. I have no wish to recreate what happened when I thought I would hear what all the fuss was about with Katy Perry.
I am always fascinated by some of the advertisements I see as I travel around, mostly because I often don’t understand a word, which makes it more interesting. Go to a country where you don’t speak the language, switch on the TV and try to guess what they are selling. Anyway, when I got back to the hotel this afternoon I saw a poster in the lobby. It stated ‘Satisfaction guaranteed’ – this, in itself, is a seemingly modest piece of bar setting. However, the picture on the poster is of a rather grand looking room with a seal sitting on the bed. I looked more closely, there was a headline or some text I had missed, a subtle pun that my limited French hadn’t picked up? Not that I could think of any decent seal-based puns in English (too late now, I have had time to think about it so they don’t count). Nope. Just a seal, a very happy looking seal it must be said, sitting on a bed. I was tempted to go to reception and ask why my room had not come with a seal, but quickly thought better of it.
Some of the advertisements you will see when traveling, are familiar from home, some are amusing translations of things from home and some are just plain odd. Whatever the language, there can only be frowns until hair is properly styled, clean clothes have bubbles or flowers floating off of them while any illness is shown via a cartoon character being attacked by enormous red arrows. One of the funniest pieces of advertising I ever saw was a sign in the window of a launderette in Istanbul. No doubt keen to inform about their delivery service, the sign read “We take your clothes and throw them all over the city.” Marvelous. I had no urge to go inside and correct them and I trust it is still there. A place in Spain proudly boasts “Here Speeching American” and restaurants are also a great place for overly literal translation (“back of big cow in sauce of pleasing”). Alright, I made that last one up, but it was either that or ones that do not translate appropriatley to English.
So, wherever your EF tour takes you, be on the lookout for amusing examples, perhaps we should start a list. And they don’t have to be annoying, we all have those ads that we really enjoy too.
(Editor’s note: Paul Mattesini’s posts appear Tuesdays on Following the Equator. If you have a travel question for our resident expert tour director, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future posts.)